Monday, May 4, 2020

The Case of the Missing Watchman

Art by Ryan Phillip
The Case of the Missing Watchmen
Our online D&D game set in Ravenloft continues.

The Characters
Tekla Vardagen, half-elf warlock
13 Shattered Mirrors, tabaxi warlock/rogue
Tank Orkerson, half-orc fighter
Gnagar the Bloody, kobold monk
Al', drow cleric

After arriving in the city of East Riding in Ghastria the party decided it was time to turn some of the loot they had accumulated into currency. The jewelry in the possession was sold to Ratcliffe's Emporium, a shabby establishment in the slums that mostly dealt in goods of dubious provenance. Emile Ratcliffe, the halfling proprietor, had no use for the ebony statuette of a woman wearing a cloak of feathers; he suggested they take that to the Old Bone Church.

The Old Bone Church had also seen better days; it was a once magnificent building that had fallen into disrepair. When they entered, they saw that the interior walls were decorated with bleached bones. A choirboy went to fetch Father Raspard for them; while they waited, they overheard an argument: a woman with short blonde hair stormed out of Raspard's office and left the church. Father Raspard explained the outburst by stating that the woman was a member of the parish watch and that unfortunately he was not allowing her to waste time and resources on investigating the disappearance of her partner in the watch, Nikolai.

Father Raspard was interested in the idol they had brought him. He further explained that the Old Bone Church was dedicated to the faith of the Eternal Order, and that a variety of death gods (such as Myrkul, Nerull the Reapers, etc.) were worshiped in the church. The statuette was one of the Raven Queen, one of the deities favored by the Eternal Order. The group offered him the idol without exacting a price; for their generosity, they were rewarded with a vial of holy water and the blessing of the Eternal Order.

They found Agniezka smoking furiously outside the church. The party offered to help her find the missing Nikolai, even though she could only scrounge together a small reward for their efforts. She also gave them a key to Nikolai's flat. Searching Nikolai's flat revealed three interesting clues. One was a list that seemed to pertain to his investigation into the deaths of six drunkards in the parish. Another was a painting of Agniezka with her throat slit. And finally, they found that the clothes in his trunk were a mix of masculine and feminine apparel. 

The party took the painting to the Watersilk Gallery in hopes of gaining more information about it. As it turned out, the gallery was showing the works of a single painter, Donna Pietra Sangino, whose signature matched that on the painting of Agniezka. While touring the gallery, they also saw an uncanny painting that disturbed them: a portrait of a drow, a wood elf, an orc, a kobold, and a tabaxi. Although the painted figures were not exact matches of the party themselves, they were started at the fact that it was so close to their group's unusual composition. They also saw a list kept by the gallery that suggested they were trying to locate Donna Pietra Sangino. The next item on the list was a tavern called The Incredible Hook.

The Incredible Hook was revealed to be a down-and-out bar by the wharf that was the domain of the fish-faced Gately Gang. The group partook of the Gately's special green brew; while at the Hook, they noticed a woman with dark curly hair who would poke her head in, look around, and then leave. Assuming she was looking for a drunkard to prey upon in some way, 13 Shattered Mirrors posed an an inebriate; the next time the woman came in, she hired him to deliver a letter to a nobleman. Tekla gained the woman's address by having her dove familiar follow the woman to her home.

The group thought that the curly-haired woman was the artist they felt was responsible for Nikolai's disappearance, but approaching her unveiled that she too was being blackmailed by the artist. Irina Druskaya, as she called herself, was working on behalf of Donna Pietra Sangino, hiring drunks to deliver blackmail letters. Sangino's portraits apparently give her magical control over their subjects; she was extorting the wealthy under threat of using the paintings to cause them social embarrassment. Irina herself was compelled to do the painter's bidding via a magical portrait.

Irina was able to give the party Sangino's address. The group observed that the residence was guarded by members of the Gately Gang, so they attempted to climb up the back of the house, but unfortunately they made too much noise and the gang members rushed up the stairs to meet the party in Sangino's parlor for battle. Two of the gang were armed with harpoons; the other two summoned curved magical blades that attacked independently and cast bolts of radiant fire. The Gately gang was defeated, and the party moved on to the studio on the third floor to confront Donna Pietra Sangino.

When questioned about why she had painted a portrait of people who seemed so close to the group, she replied that she sometimes painted visions that came to her unbidden. Nevertheless, the time for talk was over. Sangino whistled, summoning two giant mosquito like monstrosities that burst through the room's glass skylight. As the monsters engaged the group, Sangino ran to one of her landscape paintings, touched it, and disappeared. The summoned creatures were heavily armored, and the group had difficulty wounding them. They also possessed a variety of venomous and necrotic attacks. However, the party was finally able to gain the upper hand. As each of the creatures died, they transformed into puddles of oil paint.

Searching the rest of the house revealed a bound Nikolai on the first floor. Sangino had used the painting of Agniezka with her throat slit as leverage to get him to come to the painter's house, where he was waylaid by Gately Gang members. His investigation into the deaths of the drunks who couriered  blackmail letters attracted Sangino's murderous attention. The party was left wondered what power the portrait that was similar to their own appearance could hold over them. It was resolved that they would try to steal it from the Watersilk Gallery.